12 Mar, 2022 23:41
Serbian President reveals stance on potential NATO entry
Belgrade does not need the US-led military block as it itself has a capable army and won’t forget the 1999 bombing, the president has said
The former Serbian Ministry of Defense destroyed by the 1999 NATO bombings pictured in the center of Belgrade on March 11, 2022. © Getty Images / Michael Kappeler
Serbia is better off without NATO which waged an “aggression” on the country – then part of former Yugoslavia – in 1999, killing children and civilians, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has said. He insisted that Serbia’s military is capable of protecting the country on its own.
Vucic made the remark while adressing a campaign rally in Busije on Saturday. The predominantly refugee Belgrade suburb became home to the Serbs who fled Serbian Krajina, a now-defunct self-proclaimed republic in Croatia, due to the Croatian military offensive in the mid-1990s.
“Some say that we should join NATO, and I say that we have a beautiful country, the most beautiful in the world, and that is why we should keep it alone, and defend its sky and its freedom! That is why our army is the strongest,” Vucic said, as cited by the Serbian media.
“As far as NATO is concerned, cooperation is always good, and it is nice to forgive, but we cannot forget,” the president added. He then went on to recall the names of Serbian children killed during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
Not far from here, they killed Milica Rakić. We will soon mark the anniversary of the aggression. And we will not hesitate to call it aggression, and not intervention or campaign
Milica Rakić was three years old when she was killed by a cluster munition in her home in the Belgrad suburb of Batajnica on April 17, 1999 as NATO targeted a nearby military base.
After Russia launched its offensive on Ukraine on February 24, Serbia’s breakaway region of Kosovo urged NATO to streamline its accession to the block, even though four of the alliance’s members do not recognize it as an independent state. Belgrade took a neutral stance towards the ongoing Russia-Ukraine military conflict. On Friday, Vucic vowed to punish Serbs seeking to go to Ukraine to fight for either side.
Belgrad, however, has come under mounting pressure from the EU to “harmonize” its position on Ukraine with the rest of the block. While the EU shut its airspace to Russian planes, Serbia continues to maintain air travel with Russia.